martes, diciembre 13, 2005


Interesante el editorial de Sidney Morning Herald, es el islam el problema?

Is Islam the problem?

Andrew West

Australia does not have a race relations problem. We have a clash of cultures and that's a big difference -- and maybe the problem is certain forms of Islam.

Of course, the marauding boneheads who rampaged through Cronulla on Sunday don't make this distinction. If they did, perhaps they would realise that when they screech "Lebs out" they are also referring to the majority of Lebanese Australians who are Maronite Christians, in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

By their chants, they are also demanding the expulsion of NSW Governor Marie Bashir and her husband, Sir Nicholas Shehadie, two of the finest citizens this state has ever produced; and Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, one of the most outwardly knockabout political leaders in Australia. Lebanese all.

The problem is not the blood that runs through people's veins. Any form of discrimination based on race or ethnicity -- based on the colour of one's skin or hair or eyes -- is inherently immoral, illogical and evil.

But culture and religion are behavioural. They involve values.

People can be born into a particular culture or religion but sooner or later they reach an age of reason where they can embrace or reject their precepts. And if people freely embrace a culture that is antithetical to the prevailing social mores -- in our case, I would hope, liberal, enlightenment values -- then we are entitled to judge, object, censure and even discriminate.

Which brings us to this extremely prickly issue of radical Islam.

My colleague on this paper, Nadia Jamal, has mounted a strong and sophisticated argument that the issue is not religion but culture, specifically the patriarchal culture that prevails in many traditional Muslim households. This is a good point but I think it diplomatically sidesteps the fact that some strains of Islam do, indeed, sanction attitudes and behaviour that are not simply patriarchal but repressive.

When groups of young Muslim men stalk the beaches of Sydney making sexually threatening comments against women in bathing costumes, as they indisputably do; and when they believe they act with the license of a sheik who claims that such women are responsible for their own sexual violation, is their religion, at least in part, to blame?

I do not embrace multiculturalism, as such, because I do not believe all cultures are compatible with non-discriminatory liberalism. I prefer a multi-ethnic, non-racial society, which has at its core a canon of values that include racial and gender equality.

I admit to feeling a little uneasy at the sight of a Muslim woman shrouded not simply in a headscarf but a face-concealing, head-to-toe chador, and wonder just how much choice she has had in deciding her lifestyle. I am not hugely sympathetic to a Muslim seeking asylum because he claims to have been discriminated against because of his support for sharia law.

I cannot celebrate such culture in the way that I celebrate Italian National Day in Leichhardt or the Tet festival in Cabramatta or Greek Orthodox Easter or a Seder at Passover or a service of Eritrean Orthodox Church, such as the one I attended a couple of years ago in a borrowed Church of England in London, or lunch with a couple of Palestinian intellectuals.

Some multicultural theorists will squawk and say that I prefer only a soft multiculturalism (if they insist on calling it that) that does not offend western liberal values. They would be spot on. My acceptance ends when the assault on the liberality of society itself begins.

None of this erases the points I made yesterday, condemning the lynch-mob mentality of the Cronulla crowds, boozed up, in their thousands, chasing down lone Lebanese teenagers.

But I accept the need to distinguish between cultural and ethnicity and ask some tough questions.

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